was a tropical cyclone that caused seven deaths and had a major economic impact northern Queensland
. It had a long 3½ week life in March 1997. Peaking as a Category 4
cyclone, and making landfall as a Category 2, it caused significant damage in the Cairns
region which it approached on two occasions. Houses were undermined by huge waves, a marina and boats were severely damaged, roads and bridges suffered from flood and landslide damage and huge losses were inflicted on sugar cane, fruit and vegetable crops. The death toll in Queensland
was seven including five on a yacht which sank. There were 26 who died in Papua New Guinea
which was also severely affected. Total estimated costs in Australia were $190 million (1997 values).
Cyclone Justin was the largest tropical cyclone to hit Northern Queensland in 1997. On the 7 March, over the Coral Sea, Cyclone Justin began to form. They way in which it formed was as follows. The sea waters were at least 27°C and as a result some of this water was evaporated into the air. This water vapour then rose upwards and created large cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds grouped together and caused a current of warm, moist, rapidly rising air to occur. As a result of this current a low pressure area on the surface of the sea began to develop. This low pressure area made the trade winds (In the southern hemisphere, where Cyclone Justin formed, they are the east to south-easterly winds) to become much stronger, and indeed, allowed them to impart enough force to rotate the cumulonimbus clouds. As these winds spiralled around the low pressure area (the ‘eye’) they released heat and moisture which supplied the now cyclone with energy.
It spent the first week of its life following an erratic path around the Coral Sea; however, with the constant cloud cover the water temperature dropped 4°C. As a consequence of this, Cyclone Justin was deprived of its vital energy source (the warm water vapour) and therefore moved northeast (towards Papua New Guinea) to warmer water. Here, it grew to a Category 3 cyclone and caused storm force winds and storm surges. On the 22nd of March it retreated to Queensland where it made landfall, as a Category 2 cyclone, north of Cairns. The areas in and around Cairns, Innisfail and Mareeba areas were devastated with large storm surges, excessive flooding, gusts of winds which reached up to 130km/h and landslides.
Cyclone Justin left a devastating path of destruction that had a major economic impact. Its storm force winds, which reached up to 150km/h, caused extensive damage to banana, sugar cane and pawpaw crops. This resulted in an overall loss of $150million to the Queensland Horticulture and Sugar Cane Industry, as these crops could no longer be exported or sold. This also resulted in expensive prices of Bananas and Pawpaws all over the country as there was a great demand for them but not enough products. Cyclone Justin’s storm force winds also caused severe damage to powerlines, which resulted in the power being out for 36 hours. Consequently, many businesses couldn’t operate and some businesses (such as shops and restaurants) lost inventory items due to their fridges and freezers being unable to prevent food from going off. All of this resulted in a loss of income. Unemployment was also a major consequence of Cyclone Justin’s destruction. The destruction of crops eliminated the need for truck drivers to transport the goods and harvesters to harvest the crops. Other jobs were also affected such as those in tourism, as holiday-makers avoided the area until the wreckages had being cleaned up. On the other hand, the building industry and manufacturers flourished as the need to repair to replace goods/buildings, which had being destroyed or damaged by Cyclone Justin, was tremendously high. With damage to many buildings, vehicles, produce and other items, thousands of insurances claims were made. Some insurance premiums then rose so that the companies could cover the cost of the claims.
Cyclone Justin resulted in 7 fatalities; 5 people were on a yacht that sank, a woman was killed in a landslide which was triggered by the excessive rainfall, and a boy was electrocuted by a falling power line. The areas affected were very close knit communities, and so, when these fatalities occurred everybody was devastated. This resulted in the communities being brought together by their shared experiences and underlying grief. Many of the other social impacts of Cyclone Justin go hand in hand with the economic ones. For instance, some farmers only source of income is their crops, so when their crops were destroyed they didn’t have anything left. This would have being a very stressful time as they would have to find another way to make money in order to rebuild their properties/crops. This could have induced mental anguish on some of the farmers and resulted in them giving up on farming and moving away altogether. A similar situation would be felt by those who were rendered unemployed by the cyclone, as they wouldn’t have an income stream to support themselves on.
The environmental impart of Cyclone Justin was large and varied. The Great Barrier Reef was one of the most significant locations which was damaged by the cyclone. With a limited width of open water the Barrier Reef is, as its name suggests, a barrier to the land against high swells. Although this means that the land is relatively well protected, the reef is exposed to high swells and large waves. When Cyclone Justin hit in 1997 some parts (mainly around Heron Island and the Whitsundays) of the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem were severely damaged. This is because Justin’s extreme wave power caused the break-up of corals which many fish (and other organisms) relied on to live; in turn this affected the larger organisms which relied on these smaller organisms to live, and so on. Some experts believe, however, that the break-up of hard corals is a positive impact as it is simply part of the reef’s life cycle. Cyclone Justin
also impacted the beaches along Northern Queensland. Many beaches experienced acute erosion due to high tides and storm surge. As well as this salt water inundated many areas, specifically from Cooktown to Fraser Island. Many plants have an extremely low tolerance to salt water and for that reason a significant amount of vegetation along the coast died.